Thursday, September 19, 2013

DR Congo: M23 leadership seem to be trying to avoid a War Crimes date with the ICC

M23 deny claims of forced recruitment

Colonel Vianney Kazarama (C), head of soldiers of the rebel group M23, speaking in the Rumangabo camp in the DR Congo on April 27, 2013. PHOTO/AFP

By Steven Candia

The M23 rebel group in eastern D.R. Congo that has been waging a war against Kinshasa has refuted media reports that it is forcefully recruiting people into its ranks.

“…the M23 Movement categorically states that there is no and has never been any forced recruitment by M23,” Rene Abandi, the M23 spokesperson said in a statement, maintaining that membership into its ranks was on one’s free will.
What a load of shit. There are lots of recorded cases of forced recruitment including the recruitment  the kidnapping of child soldiers. 

“I strongly condemn the recruitment and use of children as well as other grave child rights violations committed by the M23 and other armed groups,” said Roger Meece, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the DRC.

“M23 Movement reiterates that membership in M23 is voluntary and based on belief in and a strong commitment to the cause of the Movement which is a system of governance that serves the interests of all Congolese.”

Actually it is a system of governance that suits the interests of the Rwandan regime. It includes rape and murder as tools of state.

The rebel group also disowned Lt. Richard Bisangwa, who in an interview with New Vision at the Amnesty Commission offices, accused the rebel outfit of running clandestine recruitment cells in Uganda, particularly in Kampala.

He claimed to have forcefully been conscripted into the ranks of the outfit after being duped of a lucrative contract with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

“Lt. Richard Bisangwa who claims to have served under the CNDP (National Congress for Defense of the People) in 2008 and later forcefully recruited into M23, is not known to M23 and did not at any one time serve under CNDP,” Abandi said.

It would seem the Ugandan authorities take the allegations of Lt. Richard Bisangwa seriously. 

"There are Ugandans and Rwandans serving in M23," he said. "They are recruiting Ugandans. While there, I saw Ugandan recruits arriving at the camps."

However, Bisangwa said some of the Ugandans fled due to harsh conditions in the camps.

Uganda army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said the country will not tolerate Ugandans being recruited into M23 and pledged to investigate Bisangwa's allegations."

Then of course we have this from last week.  

" Simon Kayitara, 30, was charged for transporting and recruiting eleven people for rebel activities in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

They are Wilson Kayira, Esaw Kahigi, Geofrey Rwenzaho, Michael Karuhanga, John Sonko, Sam Kabeera, Ivan Kwikirza, Frank Muloli, Emmanuel Tumwine, Isaac Kamazi and Julius Asimwe.

Kayitara appeared before Chief Magistrate Olive Namukwaya on Monday at Buganda Road Magistrate’s Court in Kampala and charged with eleven counts of trafficking and an alternative count of recruiting people for rebel activities."

Trafficking I suspect may be code for kidnapping given the alternative charge.
M23 accused MONUSCO of orchestrating the falsehoods against them.

“MONUSCO, which Lt. Bisangwa claims facilitated his escape and journey from M23 territory to Kampala, is an active fighting force against M23 in North Kivu Province and have over the last two years been largely responsible for shaping a negative script about M23 as well as magnifying and distorting key M23-related issues in order to fit other narratives and agenda,” the statement reads. 

Actually that charge would be comical except for all the devastation that this so called "active fighting force " has allowed to happen by doing anything but fight. That has however changed with the Intervention Brigade ( Africa Brigade ) that is serving under the auspices of the UN MONUSCO forces. From last November following the M23 invasion of Goma. 

“They were able to bypass all of the positions we had,” said Hiroute Guebre-Sellasie, who heads the United Nations peacekeeping office in North Kivu Province, where Goma is situated. “We are not facing a conventional force.”

Regardless of the relevence of this news story this is one of the most astonishingdisgraceful incidents of this conflict.
Ms. Guebre-Sellasie said that while United Nations soldiers had prepared for certain attacks, rebels were filtering “beyond sight” through a national park and “coming from other sides.” 

In other words MONUSCO was so bloody incompetent its response to the invasion was to park on the road leading into Goma and do nothing as M23 simply walked around them. There disgrace was tempered somewhat by FARDC ( DR Congo Army ) they ran away but took time out for a couple of days of looting, raping and killing in Goma while the rebels caught up.       

In an exclusive interview, Lt. Bisangwa, who is a Ugandan, spoke of how he was approached, duped, abducted and later forcefully recruited into the outfit in February before escaping early last month and later flown back into Uganda.

“They deceived me that there is a job to repair and service MONUSCO vehicles but when a reached Bunagana on the Congo side, they abducted me and took away all my personal effects and documents,” Bisangwa, who claims he served as an artillery gunner, said in the interview.

I guess we will have to wait for the result of the Ugandan investigation. If I was Rene Abandi I wouldn't be feeling too confident about the outcome of that investigation.

However the M23, in the statement, sought to punch holes in Bisangwa’s side of the story, dismissing his claims as a fabrication that is lacking in truth and is absurd.

“He claims he escaped because he was dissatisfied with his ‘rank’ in M23. Surely, rank would be the last thing that would concern a person who was duped and forcefully conscripted.”

Strangely that is the first I have heard of that complaint, his dissatisfaction with his rank does not seem to be a issue from Bisangwa's perspective. I suspect he was motivated far more by staying alive in the face of a newly invigorated FARDC and the Intervention Brigade. 

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